I’m probably a day or so behind on this story, but I decided to chime in anyway. One of the most distasteful elements of working in law enforcement was the siege mentality that forces cops (and nurses, sometimes, particularly those who work in big-city ERs) to adopt an us vs. them perspective and apply it to everyone they encounter. There have been good movies about it. Normal, healthy camaraderie soon descends into paranoia and a gang- like set of ethics.
Recently, I had a shouting match with an ex-cop over the use of force. It starts in the academy, this notion that THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU DO ON YOUR SHIFT IS TO GO HOME. Well, of course it is. When Ginger or Rachel or Andy finish work, getting home alive is just as much a priority to them, I’m sure. They agreed to brave the freeways to get to work. They agreed to navigate the dangerous gauntlet of leering Hispanic men in order to get their ham biscuit. (In fact, Ginger, I hear, navigated it multiple times) My point is that whatever risks they encounter as part of their day are just that, part of their day, and they make that trade when they accepted employment. Of course I’m not intending to diminish the real risks police officers take as part of their jobs, but it is important to note that they are not conscripts, they joined willingly and with the full realization that this job carried the possibility of physical harm.
Since that is the case, I made the point to this guy that it is a policeman’s duty to take a bullet for an innocent person. He literally became enraged when I suggested that I’d rather see a cop killed over an innocent bystander because that is part of job: stand between me and danger. It’s not heroic, its expected. When a civilian risks his life to aid someone, thats heroism. When a cop risks his life to aid a civilian, he is simply fulfilling his contract.
No one wants to see a policeman hurt or killed, of course, and I don’t mean to suggest their lives mean less. But this notion that it is possible to do police work without possible injury is ridiculous. There is training, there are procedures, and yes, there are tools to assist police in carrying out their duties. One of these is the taser. I hated it the minute I saw it.
Watch that video again. four cops, one guy. He was breathing heavily, and on the tail end of a tantrum, possibly due to illness, but the point is that he was not advancing, he was retreating.
Now, he’s dead. He’s not the first, he won’t be the last.
In my opinion, weapons should be defensive tools, always. Once the suspect advances towards you, well, unleash the hounds. But just because a disoriented man who cannot communicate with you is trying your patience, or not obeying your commands fast enough, you are not entitled to incapacitate him or her. If you must subdue, wait till you have sufficient numbers, then do so physically. This reliance on sophisticated weaponry is embarrassing, and dangerous.
We seem to have morphed into a society that too quickly dismisses the rights of those who do not immediately submit to authority, or that have broken the law before. But thats another post, for another day…